HOUSTON (AP) — Houston finished off its best nonconference season in school history with a strong second half Saturday.
Corey Davis Jr. scored 19 points, DeJon Jarreau had 13 and No. 22 Houston beat NJIT 80-59 to remain undefeated.
Brison Gresham had 11 points and seven rebounds and Armoni Brooks had 10 points for Houston (13-0), which shot 50 percent overall and 63 percent in the second half.
Houston has won a nation-best 26 straight home games and set a school record for best nonconference record. The Cougars have the second-best start since 1967-68 team started 31-0.
“Being 13-0 is tremendous, but last time I checked, they don’t hand out any medals for being undefeated in nonconference play,” coach Kelvin Sampson said. “We never talk about it. … We just talk about our next game.”
Zach Cooks scored 20 points and Shyquan Gibbs and Diandre Wilson each added 10 for the Highlanders (11-3), who shot 33 percent from the field, including 9 of 30 on 3-pointers.
“I thought we played well for the first 15 minutes of the game, and then from that point on, all the credit in the world goes to the University of Houston and coach Sampson’s team,” NJIT coach Brian Kennedy said. “They wore us down defensively. They were able to use their size and their bench. … Once the momentum started their way, we couldn’t stop the ball rolling.”
The Cougars opened the second half with a 24-6 run to lead 51-29. That included five straight points by Davis, capped by a fast-break layup with 11:14 remaining.
“I thought we took a step forward in the second half offensively,” Sampson said. “Guys loosened up and made shots.”
Houston started slowly, falling behind 18-8 on a Cooks’ 3-pointer with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.
“I think we were playing well and a couple of those 3s went in because we were moving the ball better,” Kennedy said. “We were getting to the basket a little bit. We were moving the ball inside and out, and we were moving better. I think some of the 3s we took were a little uncharacteristically quick and challenged by Houston.”
The Cougars finished the half outscoring NJIT 19-5 capped by a monstrous dunk from Jarreau with a minute left in the half. Jarreau had six points to lead the run.
“I just think at the start of the game, we didn’t have the right attitude,” Sampson said. “I thought the score reflected that. Last 10 minutes of the first half, they scored five points. I thought our attitude reflected that, too. Once we got our attitudes adjusted a little bit and started getting after those guys, you could see us take off.”
NJIT: The Highlanders look like they will be a team to watch in the Atlantic Sun, competing with Houston for the first half. This was the first game NJIT has played outside the Northeast. NJIT started 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and followed that up with 13 straight misses.
Houston: The Cougars fell behind early for the third time in four games, but they were able to recover by halftime. Houston shot 29 percent on 3-pointers, continuing struggles from behind the arc. Houston outrebounded NJIT 48-33.
Houston should remain at least at No. 22 after winning its lone game of the week.
NJIT: Visit Duquesne on Monday.
Houston: Opens conference play at home against Tulsa on Wednesday.
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